[WOMEN'S WORLD CUP SPOTLIGHT] At its last two major tournaments, the USA failed to open with a win. On Tuesday, against a very young North Korean team, the Americans were once again slow out of the gate. But this time one attacker's persistence and a rare goal by a defender earned them a 2-0 victory in their World Cup opener in Dresden.
First-half nerves? The USA, the oldest team at the tournament and with a starting lineup that averaged more than a 100 caps, played a tentative, mistake-ridden first half against the tournament's youngest team, which started five teenagers. Still, a 2-0 win thanks to a much better second half bodes well for a team that won the 2008 Olympic gold medal after losing its opener (2-0 to Norway). At the 2007 World Cup, where the USA finished third, it started off by tying North Korea, 2-2.
Fifth time’s a charm. After Lauren Cheney shot straight to keeper Hong Myong Hui four times, the U.S. attacker did better with her head, scoring the first U.S. goal in the 54th minute when she met an Abby Wambach cross six yards out and, without needing to jump, headed into the far corner of the goal. Wambach received the ball on an excellent cross-field pass by Carli Lloyd from inside the U.S. half. After faking out a defender near the corner flag, Wambach she sent the inswinger to Cheney and she finally beat the shaky 19-year-old keeper who hardly had to move to make four saves on Cheney's previous efforts.
Rachel Buehler’s Day On. Besides competently patrolling the central defense alongside Christie Rampone, Rachel Buehler picked a nice time to score her second goal for the USA. The 25-year-old making her 57th U.S. appearance scored her first last year in a 5-0 win over Haiti in World Cup qualifying. After right back Ali Krieger delivered a ball from the wing that came off the crossbar, Buehler headed the rebound into the goalmouth, where Lloyd won a scramble for the ball and touched it back to Buehler, who slid and shot low from 15 yards, just inside the left post.
Main striker off target. She’s the USA’s third all-time leading scorer -- after Kristine Lilly (130) and Mia Hamm (158) with 118 goals and has the best goals-per-game ratio in U.S. history, but 31-year-old Abby Wambach scored just once in the last 10 games coming into the World Cup and squandered several chances against the Koreans. Wambach, who missed the 2008 Olympics after suffering a broken leg on the eve of the tournament, has recently been hampered by Achilles’ tendinitis. Against the Koreans, she did find scoring chances – ones she’ll need to finish when the USA faces tougher foes.
Colombia up next. In other Group C action on Tuesday, Sweden beat Colombia, 1-0. The USA faces the Colombians on Saturday in Sinsheim – home of TSG 1899 Hoffenheim – at noon ET (ESPN/ESPN3.com/Galavision). The Colombians are making their first World Cup appearance.
June 28 in Dresden
USA 2 North Korea 0. Goals: Cheney (Wambach) 54, Buehler (Lloyd) 76.
USA -- Solo, Krieger, Buehler, Rampone, LePeilbet, O’Reilly (Rapinoe, 79), Boxx, Lloyd, Cheney, Rodriguez (Morgan, 75), Wambach.
North Korea -- Hong Myong Hui, Ho Un Byol (Kwon Song Hwa, 81), Song Jong Sun, Jong Pok Sim, Ri Un Hyang, Kim Su Gyong, Jo Yun Mi, Ri Ye Gyong, Jon Myong Hwa (Kim Un Ju, 68), Yun Hyon Hi (Paek Sol Hui, 48), Ra Un Sim.
Referee: Bibiana Steinhaus (Germany).